A/N: And my weird, indirect writing style comes into play yet again. Writing out these confrontations felt like writing a fight scene for Fly Free. It's just so… blargh.
Stunned silence ranged through the group of kittens.
"Konan?" Jiraiya sounded hesitant.
She turned to look at him, her face showing mild doubt. "Really? Of all the things you chose to focus on, you chose that? Yes, sensei, it's me. We established the fact that I was alive during the fight several months ago. Now, if we could get to any real questions?"
Though Konan was outwardly calm and collected, and indifferent to Jiraiya's presence, she was near-panic on the inside. Here was her old teacher, and back in the other room were Yahiko and Nagato, and—
"Where are we?" The question, sensible as it was, came from the white cat with only one visible eye. That was probably Hatake Kakashi, then.
"A small town in Colorado, a state in the middle of the United States of America, which is located on the North American continent on the Earth of this dimension." Konan stated, knowing that this would likely mean nothing to them. "I can show you on a map and globe later."
"This… dimension?" The orange and yellow kitten mewled; this was probably Uzumaki Naruto. "What the h*** is that supposed to mean?"
Konan stood silent for several moments as she tried to figure out how to word the answer. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the spiky black cat with cream points staring at her without expression, and the other kittens behind him actually trying to control themselves. She frowned to herself; did he really keep them in line with fear? No, the red kitten sent him a besotted look, and the looks from the other two held no fear. And yet…
"In this dimension," She began, choosing her words as carefully as possible, "Our world is the setting for a manga. We are all characters in it, so to Jade, we are all fictional."
Now, how to word the next part…
"We're what?!" Naruto, again. Konan shot him the same look she always sent to Yahiko when he said or did something particularly immature.
"We are fictional." Konan repeated.
"Who's the main character, then?" Konan blinked at the black cat that had raised the question. His fur was much smoother than Sasuke's, but nowhere near as long as Itachi's. He had a white underbelly, and his voice, even as that of a cat, was rather… emotionless. Rather like hers, actually.
Konan, flicked an ear at the question, and nodded her nose in the direction of the team that had tumbled from what she thought of as the Konoha box. "Uzumaki Naruto."
And then there was yelling.
Caterwauls, triumphant and disbelieving alike, rent the air. Konan's claws popped out with the sudden stress, and she turned her head as Jade stalked over.
"Should I spray them?" Jade's voice was conversational as she squatted down next to where Konan was sitting. One arm was behind her back, and Konan could see the spray bottle held loosely in Jade's hand.
Apparently, so could a few others, as Konan could tell when the Sannin—they were being almost suspiciously quiet, actually—and Hatake all took several steps back.
Konan looked back up at Jade and nodded. Jade grinned.
The caterwauls changed as the kittens were hit by the water. They all turned to hiss at Jade, who simply raised an eyebrow.
"I've been dealing with Akatsuki kittens for three or four months now. I honestly think I can handle you guys, especially after having to deal with Tobi, Deidara, and Hidan." She stood and turned around, walking back to her seat. "Konan, you translate."
Konan frowned, but acquiesced. The expressions on the faces in front of her as she did so slowly changed from anger to disbelief.
"But…" The redhead on Sasuke's current team; her name was, if Konan's memory served well, Karin. "She's just a civilian."
It was not only true, but also remarkably easy to see. Konan shrugged, the movement a little odd with her current kitten body. "She isn't scared of us. Would I be right in assuming that you have encountered Agents of the Phoenix Corporation?"
To her surprise, every last one of the kittens nodded. Well, that was helpful, at least. "She is under their protection. They run this universe and several others, and are, much as I hate to say it, analogous to gods."
She watched them, noticing the fuming looks on the faces of several of them. Alright, now came the particularly difficult part. "Are any of you aware of the term fanfiction?"
In the kitchen sat the Akatsuki, some on chairs, some on counters—not that they would tell Jade, considering how adamantly she reacted whenever she saw them sitting like that, particularly when they were cats like right now—and all silent. There had been a large amount of caterwauling earlier, followed by hissing, but that was done with now. Hidan had been the one to stay human to take care of the water, claiming that out of everyone, he was the one most likely to be attacked by the people there for being a callous d***.
Well, at least he was honest about it.
Moreover, he added, he could translate for Jade much more easily than the rest of them.
Suddenly, more caterwauls went up, and this time, there were discernible words.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, THERE'S A CIVILIAN GIRL PLAYING DICE WITH OUR LIVES?"
Hidan raised an eyebrow from his spot leaning against the counter, arms crossed. There was no Akatsuki cloak on him, but then again, neither was there a shirt.
"Wonder what that was about…" He muttered. Being human at the moment, he didn't understand what had been said. "They sounded f***in' p***ed, seriously."
Scoffs were heard from the Akatsuki kittens, and then hisses as Yahiko padded closer to the hallway and peered around the corner.
He mewled something, which the other kittens understood as: "I can't see anything. Konan put up a paper wall to keep them from leaving and Jade just looks bored."
Hidan did not understand, but his eyes narrowed as the kittens all congregated closer to the hall.
There was silence for several seconds, and then Jade's voice called out. "Oi, kittens! Get over here! And keep quiet!"
Hidan pushed himself away from the counter and walked confidently into the room. Jade's eyes narrowed on him. "Why are you still human?"
He looked pointedly at the kittens and then walked closer so that he could talk to his warden, er, Jade without the new arrivals hearing. She looked at least partially mollified that he had remembered to do so.
He leaned over to put his head closer to hers. "Someone had to stay human to turn off the water."
"Fine." Jade sighed and turned back to the paper arena. The kittens inside all seemed to be arguing with one another, barring Konan, who seemed to just be conversing with Jiraiya about… something. There was even a small skirmish of sorts going on between Tsunade and Orochimaru. Jade tapped a finger against a knee and then stood up and strode over to the pen.
"Oi. Uchiha Sasuke." She gestured for him to come over. He didn't move.
Jade rolled her eyes and stood up, going over to the Akatsuki kittens and picking up Obitobi—
Go to h***.
—and Itachi. She went over and put them in the bathroom, uttering a small, "Stay there."
She went back to the paper arena and looked in again. "Seriously, I'm not joking. Uchiha Sasuke, get your furry little butt over here." She snapped her fingers and pointed at the ground. "Dude, come on. It's not that hard to do."
Konan turned away from Jiraiya momentarily to translate, and Jade watched as Sasuke's eyes narrowed and he stalked over. The second he came to the edge, she snatched him up—not that he particularly resisted, for some reason. Konan had probably threatened him in some way—and walked back over to The Bathroom that held Itachi and Tobi.
"Have fun." She tossed him in, not even bothering to place him down gently. The angry hiss sent her way cut off abruptly, and was replaced by subdued mewls. She knocked for just a second. "Itachi, don't forget to see if you can keep any sound from coming out."
She came back, looked over who was where, and then shrugged. "Jiraiya, Konan, over here, please."
Jade took Konan up into one arm and held Jiraiya by the scruff of his neck, keeping it very much in mind that holding him in her arms would put her in the vicinity of her chest, which would be a very bad idea. She called back over her shoulder. "Ripple eye, ghost boy, you come too."
Her peripheral vision caught two blurs following her, one red, one orange. Good, they'd known who she meant, though it wasn't all that hard to tell.
She took them into the office, left them on the ground, and left, hoping for the best.
Jade came back to the group left in the pen and the Akatsuki kittens that were still left on the ground outside of it. She glanced at Hidan, who jerked his chin in acknowledgement. She rolled her eyes and looked back over the kittens. Well, there were a few issues that would probably have to be resolved fairly early on to prevent fights from breaking out later. Deidara would likely have issues with Sasuke, but the boy wasn't in the room right now, so that would have to wait. Karin, Naruto, and Nagato would probably be excited to learn that they had family, but that would have to wait as well. Similarly, she would have to postpone any further makeup meeting between Sasuke and Konoha, or between Jiraiya and Tsunade… However, there were other people that had killed each other, and she wanted to get those meetings out of the way and dealt with as soon as possible.
Jade's eyes landed on Sasori. She looked over at Sakura. There was one match up.
Kakuzu… Naruto and Kakashi, but who else had been involved? Shikamaru had taken out one heart remotely, by tricking Hidan. Kakashi had taken out one with a Chidori. Naruto had taken two with a Rasenshuriken… but who had taken the remaining one? Never mind, having a truce called between Kakuzu and Naruto and Kakashi would be enough for now.
Hidan would have to wait for Shikamaru, and Jade was sure that Deidara was already itching for Sasuke to come out so that he could pick another fight. Too bad the littlest Uchiha was in such high demand.
Konan, Nagato, Yahiko… those three got most of it over with Jiraiya, and a short talk with Naruto would probably smooth over anything else.
Tobi… Jade didn't really feel like divulging his secret to everyone. No, that was best left alone. Phoenix probably wanted to build up tension anyway, considering the fact that Kakashi was here now. Zetsu went hand in hand with Tobi in these matters, though… hm, there was one joke she wanted to make after some information Phoenix had given her had made its way into her lap, but that could wait until the important, dramatic things were over.
Kisame and Suigetsu would probably need a good talk to prevent attempted sword-theft. Come to think of it, Naruto would probably try to pick a fight with Suigetsu about Zabuza's sword…
Itachi was being taken care of as she thought.
Hm… that seemed to be everyone.
"Hidan?" She muttered, catching her… bodyguard's(?) attention. "Mind translating for me?"
He raised an eyebrow, but nodded, stood, and walked over to stand just above the arena.
And so Jade spoke.
Sasuke stared at the two other cats, slightly on guard. Akatsuki, right? They had to be. One had a dark body and an orange face that swirled; that had to be Tobi. Sasuke's eyes slid to rest on the other cat, which was sitting primly, waiting to be noticed.
"…Aniki?" Sasuke breathed. The cat had long hair, black hair, and black eyes that looked like they were stare right through you, or perhaps into yo—
That one word, that one single word, caused Sasuke's train of thought to crash to a halt.
The next thing he knew, he was barreling into his brother's side, and would have likely been giving him the hug of a lifetime had they both been human.
"Aniki." He whispered, his head pressed into Itachi's side in a manner that many would have called affectionate, whether it was true feline behavior or not.
"Otouto." Itachi sighed, and rested his tiny cat chin on Sasuke's head, trying to ignore the tears, tiny as a grain of salt and just as clear, coming from the younger's eyes.
"Now, this is sweet and all, but can we possibly just move on, already?" The voice was scathing and condescending, bored and drawling. It was an altogether irritating voice and it belonged to none other than Tobi.
"Tobi." Itachi glared up at him, and Sasuke followed suit. It wasn't so much a decided action as it was just a natural reaction. He no longer hated his brother. Ergo, he imitated his brother the way he had as a child. It didn't necessarily make much sense.
Tobi turned to glare at the ceiling.
Neither does anything else you do.
Tobi, stop breaking the fourth wall. Moonstone doesn't like having to fix it all the time.
You let Hidan do it.
Hidan knows when and where to do it so that it goes through the door, or the window, or even the mail slot in the fourth wall. You don't have that kind of finesse; you just smash through.
You're saying I have less finesse than Hidan?
Obviously. So please don't break the wall anymore.
What's stopping me?
…Itachi and Sasuke continued to stare at Obitobi and—
Alright, I'll stop!
Yes… Tobi is a good boy.
Tobi internally shuddered and turned back to the two younger Uchiha, both of whom were still sitting on the mat that lay on the bathroom floor, to protect feet from cold tiles or some such nonsense. Tobi himself was sitting on the counter, staring down at them, as if in a show of superiority.
"Madara." Sasuke's eyes narrowed, and his voice was halfway between a regular mewl and a hiss.
"Not quite." Tobi stood and stretched, padding slowly over to edge of the counter. He actually seemed graceful when he dropped down to the grown, with all the feline grace this body carried.
"I am afraid," Tobi stated, relishing in the words. "That the information you seek is, for the moment and for the foreseeable future… classified."
That line belongs to the Agents…
Sasuke stepped closer to him, back arched and fur raised. His tail lashed in agitation, and his ears lay flat against his head. His teeth were bared, hissing, and—
"Sasuke, stand down." Itachi admonished him, quiet and calm, but there was a hint of hidden steel in his voice.
"Sasuke. I'm sure you were warned about what would happen if you were to try to kill anyone. I already attempted to kill him once, and the end result was… not very pretty." Itachi's tone was slightly… off on the last few words, as though it weren't quite what he wanted to say, but he couldn't explain any better for whatever reason.
"On the contrary, she was quite pretty." Tobi contradicted Itachi's words. "The scars were a bit of a negative, but overall she was rather good-looking, I'd say. It was really too bad that she electrocuted every last person in the room during her entrance, though I suppose the action was a boon to me…"
Sasuke stared up at Tobi in simultaneous confusion and disgust. He looked over at Itachi for an explanation.
"Agent Opal interfered after we all tried to concurrently kill him. Needless to say, we failed."
Tobi smirked a cat's sardonic grin. "Oh, I'm sure you would have even without her interference. But still, you don't actually want to kill me. After all," His voice changed. "Tobi is a good boy!"
…I hate you so much.
"Besides," He licked at one paw, the picture of feline boredom. "You shouldn't have been trying to kill me at all. The Phoenix Corporation warned us all, and Jade was rather adamant that we not kill anyone inside her house. I believe she mentioned something about… bloodstains?"
Itachi's tail lashed once, a single signal of his irritation. Sasuke glanced back and forth between the two.
"You… listen to this… Jade?"
"Well, we can't attack her." Tobi drawled, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Imagine how Phoenix would react if we attacked her little… pet. Moreover, Jade-chan," such a heavy emphasis was placed on that word, such sarcasm, "knows this world much better than we do, and has been… caring for us all since we got here, even before she knew who we truly were."
…Meh, whatever. Could be worse.
"And why would this… Jade," Sasuke tested out the name again, still having a little trouble with the ending, "Choose to place the three of us like this?"
"I presume," Itachi stated, "That she wished for us three, as the last of the Uchiha clan, to bond, for lack of a better term."
Sasuke turned to look at Tobi and, in a surreal moment, snorted his disbelief. "Yeah, not happening."
Tobi didn't even try to look suitably offended. He simply yawned.
Three silent kittens, one red, one orange, one blue, sat facing in one direction.
One silent, quiescent kitten, white with some small amount of red, sat facing in their direction.
"So…" Yahiko dragged the word out, and then took a step back. "These two have something to say."
Both of the other two Ame nin turned to shoot him glares, but spun their little heads right back around at the reply.
"I'm willing to listen." Jiraiya spoke slowly, stiffly, in a way that made them nearly cringe.
Oh, Kami, it was like they were all little kids in frog suits again. Or like they'd done something almost incurably stupid during training and were being reprimanded for the idiocy now. To be fair, the latter was actually a fairly good analogy for what had actually happened, but it was still so unnerving to feel like reprimanded teenagers again.
"Ano…" Nagato shifted on his paws, glancing over at Konan. He'd heard what little conversation the two had carried before coming out of the closed-off area, and it had only been regarding what rules there were in the household. Indirect, cold, and extremely telling.
"I'm sorry!" Konan was the first to break, throwing her little kitten body into a deep bow. Nagato blinked, thought it over for less than a second, and followed suit.
Had this meeting happened several months earlier, such as when they first arrived, they would not have reacted thusly. They would have stayed as the cold, unfeeling rulers they had been for years, and the conversation would have been far more stilted and chilly. However, they had grown almost soft in their time in Jade's care, and had learned of information that they wouldn't have otherwise… and gotten back Yahiko. They'd grown freer with their emotions, less controlled; it had happened to all of Akatsuki bar Hidan, who seemed to be growing less and less unstable with every visit that Jashin made.
Jiraiya blinked, his stern and emotionless façade cracking. His mouth opened a little, though whether it was to speak words that never came out or it was simply a sign of his surprise wasn't important. He snapped his mouth shut and looked over at Yahiko in confusion. The dead man shrugged.
Jiraiya sighed. "Come over here."
Confused and slightly wary, Konan and Nagato came closer, almost stalking, towards Jiraiya.
A white paw lashed out and caught them both on the heads.
"What were you thinking?" He glared at them, and there was disappointment on his fur-covered features. The two Amenin shied away from their former teacher, feeling like they were children again.
"Ano… maybe they were just thinking that I was dead and then their brains broke?" Yahiko suggested, entirely too upbeat for the situation at hand.
"I'll talk to you later." Jiraiya snapped, and then turned back to his former students.
The interesting thing about all this was that Jiraiya was in the form of a kitten that was about five weeks old. The Ame trio was in the form of cats just entering their adolescent period, several months old. Yet he was the one reprimanding them.
"What possessed you to possibly start Akatsuki?" Jiraiya demanded, and they had the feeling that his arms would be crossed were he human.
"Well, it was originally just the rebel faction we led against Hanzo," Konan explained, nervous despite herself. She was an adult, a kunoichi, the Angel of Amegakure! Why the h*** was she so—"but then Yahiko was killed by Hanzo and a man called Danzo from Konoha—"
"Stop." Jiraiya held up a paw. "Back up. Danzo was involved?"
"Yes." Nagato tilted his head to the side. "You know him?"
Jiraiya's eyes narrowed. "No s***. He's part of the Hokage's advisory council."
Silence reigned for several seconds, and then Yahiko tentatively put forth a suggestion. "How about we all just start from the beginning and see what happened?"
Several minutes later…
"I'm going to kill him. If I ever get back," Jiraiya ground out, hissing as he stalked around, his claws digging into the carpet. "Then I am going to kill him."
The three from Ame watched him as he hissed to himself, a little worried. Konan felt almost out of place suggesting anything, but did so anyway. "You could just tell the Hokage and have him arrested, right? Better to have him suffer at the hands of what he tried to protect than—"
"No. He's too dangerous to leave alive. He has too many loyal subordinates in ROOT that have infiltrated into ANBU, too many other tricks up his sleeve. It's best to just kill him as soon as possible."
"Poison?" Yahiko perked up, looking excited.
"Death by a thousand paper cuts?" Konan mused, a glint of sadism entering her eye.
"I could just rip out his soul. It would be far harder to negate, after all." Nagato offered.
There was silence for several more seconds as they realized that, instead of offering each other apologies and talking through things the normal way, they had begun to bond by planning a murder.
Regular shinobi business, then.
At least they were getting along.
Jade yawned as she sequestered away several more kittens. She looked at her watch and noticed that it was after seven. Let's see… she could keep messing around with the kittens, or…
"Hidan, mind doing a favor for me?"
"No…" The man looked at her suspiciously. "What kind of favor?"
"Soon as all the others are done, get them back in here. Put the new arrivals back in their boxes with a couple of towels for bedding. Get Konan to put up a wall around all of them, and all the Akatsuki kittens… yeah, you guys can go wait in your basket bed thing." She yawned again, stretching a little. "Now, school only ended today, so I'm going to go sleep away the next dozen plus hours to start off my vacation."
"What about the bathroom?" Hidan asked with suspiciously innocent levity.
"You mean the Uchiha? They'll be—"
"What happens if the ones in there need to use the bathroom?" Hidan clarified, pointing at the remaining Konoha nin, Taka members, and Orochimaru, who appeared to be sitting against the wall and watching everything with, of all things, amusement. As if he'd planned this.
Which was really, really wrong. Seriously, this is all me. What right does he have to pretend he had anything to do with this?
Maybe we should induct him into the fourth wall…
Hidan froze and turned to look at the ceiling. "No. No, no, no, no, no. Imagine what he could do!"
I am. Why do you think I'm suggesting it in the first place?
"…Just please don't do it."
I'll let the readers decide. A review could change things one way or the other!
Jade coughed, getting Hidan's attention. "I know that listening to your one-sided argument with the author is supposed to be amusing and all, but I'm tired, and I want to go to bed."
Hidan rolled his eyes and turned back to Jade. "Well?"
"Put the boxes on their sides, have Konan put up walls so that they don't see each other, but leave them open ended to a different 'paper room' with the litter box. Konoha in one box, Taka in another, Orochimaru on his own. Tell them that they're not allowed to interact with the other groups until I wake up tomorrow, and have someone play sentinel." Jade turned again to head up the stairs.
"And if one of Akatsuki needs to go?" Hidan asked. It was almost like he was mocking her.
Jade turned to look at him, eyebrow raised and eyes half-lidded. "I didn't say that you have to be turned again, did I? You stay human, and switch over anyone that needs to use the restroom so they can use the actual toilet."
"But then I'll have to stay awake all night."
"You're a shinobi, get used to it."
"Hidan…" Jade whined. She actually whined. "C'mon, please? I just finished up my last day of school and I wanna sleep~…"
"Alright, alright!" Hidan rolled his eyes. Jade smiled gratefully, but her parting shot wasn't quite as sweet as her face.
"Now shut up and let me sleep."
A/N: That's not all! There's still more to come! And I just realized that if I write all the conversations even close to as in depth as this, then I'll probably end up writing the confrontations for at least another two chapters. It's a bit of a daunting prospect, but it's also a veritable goldmine for character development.
There's a new poll on my page, so you can go check that out.
I drew a slightly disturbing picture of Diamond, which is up on my DA page at the moment. It's got a minor mature warning due to the gore (you can see her ribs, and some bones in a wing, and… yeah…). It's not very good, but I've been getting better.
ALSO: SaphiraEragon has recently started a story called The Great Fan War, which has various authors joining her in the destruction of crazy fangirls. She even contacted me, but I managed to barter my way around to sending an Agent instead. She chose Moonstone, so that particular fella will be even more Out Of Focus than the rest of the PC in this story. I've been betaing the story, and I greatly urge you to go check it out.